Best family day out in Northumberland
Taking an alternative route down the River Till

Best family day out in Northumberland

Family Days Out

Idea Number 1 - Fortresses, Flowers and Fairytales

Alnwick Castle and The Alnwick Garden

Alnwick Castle offers a magical and historical day out, and The Alnwick Garden has so many different concepts, activities and things to see that you can easily fill a day (at least!) exploring. Luckily, the two sit side by side in the beautiful, quaint village of Alnwick, making it easy to visit both in the same visit.


Morning – Alnwick Castle

- First, we recommend that you visit Alnwick Castle, one of the most iconic castles in the UK. Not only does it have a wealth of history and heritage, but it is also the site where many iconic Harry Potter scenes were filmed, including Harry, Ron and Hermione’s first flying lesson. When you arrive, you can begin by exploring independently, admiring turrets, courtyards and the general grounds.

- Then, channel your inner witch or wizard and participate in Broomstick Training, hosted by the castle’s resident wizarding professor! Check the ‘What’s On’ board on arrival to make sure you don’t miss out, and tickets are first-come, first-served so we recommend that you arrive and purchase your ticket as early as possible.

- The Medieval Courtyard is next on your agenda, where you can dress up in medieval costume and experience life in the 14 th century. You can try making traditional crafts and enter the Dragon’s Lair for a Dragon Quest if you’re brave enough.

Lunch – The Alnwick Garden

The Alnwick Garden

The Cherry Blossom at Alnwick Garden

- Once you have explored Alnwick Castle, make your way to The Alnwick Garden where you can begin by enjoying some refreshments at The Pavilion Café based at the garden entrance. Recently taken over by Searcys, the café offers a dramatic view of the garden and cascade – an excellent backdrop for coffee, a hot lunch, afternoon tea and more.

Afternoon – The Alnwick Garden

- Now that you have filled your boots, remember that they are made for walking and get exploring the gardens. Simply wandering independently will have you marvelling at the spectacular Grand Cascade, strolling past the pond where a sleeping giant relaxes in the water, and admiring one of the many small gardens.

- Next, take a tour of the poison garden, which is locked up due to its toxic contents, and can only be entered with a tour guide. Tours are free and take place every 15 minutes, so you simply have to head to the garden gate and wait for your tour to begin.

- Head to the Forgotten Garden Adventure Golf playground, where you can swing and you’re your way through all kinds of creatures, beasts and plants.

- Finally, you should have A Giant Adventure using The Alnwick Garden’s app, which uses an augmented reality function that will have you chasing the giant across the gardens. You can even take photos alongside him, and don’t forget to pop into the Yurt for your Giant Adventure Badge once you have completed it.

Evening – The Alnwick Garden Treehouse

- Before you leave, you must visit the famous Treehouse before you leave. This is one of the largest treehouses in the world, and is a beautiful structure that doubles as one of the most unique restaurants that you will ever visit. Adventurous types can reach the treehouse by a wobbly rope bridge, and there is a walkway for those who prefer firm ground which is also wheelchair and buggy accessible. You might want to enjoy your evening meal here, as the food is divine and the interior is a cosy, rustic, fairy light haven with a roaring open fire as its centrepiece. We highly recommend booking in advance to guarantee a table.

Alnwick Castle Opening Hours

Castle grounds and museum – 10am – 5.30 pm (last entry 3.45pm)

The Alnwick Garden Opening Hours

Open from 01 Feb – 28th March from 10am – 4pm Open from 29 March – 2nd November 10am – 6pm daily

Idea Number 2 - Animal Adventures and Tractor Trailers

Whitehouse Farm Centre

Whitehouse Farm Centre are forever adding to their long list of excellent facilities, events and offers for their families. They have a brand new playground, they host unicorn days, superhero days, a full week of clown and magic activities during May half term, and they just keep adding more magic to the experience. Here is an itinerary idea for spending the day at Whitehouse Farm Centre:



- When you arrive, have a nosey at the many animals that live here. The farm isn’t only home to your typical farm animals. Here, you can see a number of scaly reptiles, elegant birds, creepy crawlies, and some exotic animals like meerkats, marmoset monkeys and llamas.

Whitehouse Farm Centre

Feed the lambs at Whitehouse Farm Centre

- Next, grab a bag of food from the entrance gate or the gift shop. These cost 65p per bag, and you can feed the cows, sheep goats, ponies and even the llamas and alpacas. Feel free to ask a staff member for advice on feeding the animals, but you basically hold your hand out and make it flat like a dinner plate. Extend your hand and let the nibbling commence, as the animals take the food with their furry mouths.


- After all that feeding, it might be about time you had some food yourself, so you could enjoy some lunch or a snack at The Hungry Pig Café. Coffees, teas, soft drinks, snacks and hearty meals can be purchased here.


- Now, it’s time to play! Start by zooming around the indoor racing track as a family, as their mini electric racing cars can be driven by children and adults. The cars are coin operated and cost £1 per ride, so be sure to arrive with some change if you want to feel like Lewis Hamilton. If electric cars don’t take your fancy, there are pedal tractors and go-karts outside.

- While the wheels are already in motion, you may as well continue and jump on board Trevor the Tractor’s trailer. His departure times are written on the blackboard next to the Adventure Playground, so take a look at his schedule then hop on at the right time for a tour of the farm.

- Next, you might want to kick back and relax while you watch the kids enjoy one of the many play areas. The soft play area has seating for parents to relax while the kids shimmy across rope bridges, glide through tunnel slides and clamber along the climbing areas. Here you will find a small section for under 3s, so the littlest family members can enjoy it too. There is also a brand new outdoor adventure playground, as well as various outdoor activities to enjoy.

Whitehouse Farm Centre Opening Hours 

10 am – 5pm daily

Idea 3 - Choo Choo Trains, Castles and Corn Mills

Ford and Etal

Ford and Etal is a beautiful, quirky, rural estate that has been home to the Joicey family for over 100 years, and contains many family-friendly attraction within 15,000 acres. A steam train can take you to fantastic historical sites, and there are lovely places to eat and grab a drink. Here is our suggested itinerary for a day out in Ford and Etal:



- Begin your day by boarding the Heatherslaw Light Railway, which departs from Heatherslaw every hour from 11am. This is the most northerly steam train in England and runs along the picturesque River Till, and events are often arranged for the railway journeys.


Heatherslaw Light Railway

Heatherslaw Light Railway set within Ford & Etal Estates

- Hop off the train in Etal and take a short walk to Etal village, where the Lavender Tearooms make for an excellent lunch spot. Open for coffee, light lunches, afternoon tea, delicious slabs of cake and more, you can enjoy your lunch in the tearoom or in the garden.


- While you are in Etal, you must visit Etal Castle, the small yet stunning 14 th century castle that sits in delightful castle grounds. This English Heritage site is fantastic for exploration, and many people also like to relax in the grounds on a nice day and even take a picnic to enjoy there. You can then visit the nearby Flodden Battlefield, where soldiers fought almost 500 years ago.

- Jump on board the train at Etal station and head back to Heatherslaw, where you aren’t far from Heatherslaw Cornmill on the banks of the River Till. Over 700 years of milling took place on this site, and you can use traditional tools to grind your own flour and try bread-making in this fascinating, historical building. You can even take some freshly milled flour home with you.

- Set off on foot or get back in your car and head towards Hay Farm Heavy Horse Centre, which is just one mile or so up the road. This not-for-profit farm runs with entry by donation, and is home to stunning, Clydesdale Heavy Horses which are now on the Rare Breeds List. They also have sheep, pigs, ducks and geese. Dogs are welcome here (on leads) and you can spend your time exploring the farm and enjoying a carriage ride.

Ford and Etal Opening Hours

Heatherslaw Light Railway 11am-3pm running hourly on the hour from Heatherslaw 11.30 am – 3.30pm running hourly on the half hour from Etal

Etal Castle Mondays and Tuesdays – Closed Wednesday – Sunday - 10am – 6pm

Lavender Tea Rooms Monday – Friday – From 9am Saturday-Sunday – From 10am (Closing times vary between 4pm and 5pm depending on the month)

Hay Farm Heavy Horse Centre Mondays (except bank holidays) – Closed Tuesday – Sunday (and bank holiday Mondays) – 10am – 5pm

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